The high prices of ATF (Aviation Turbine Fuel) have the airlines in India in a tizzy. They are cutting back services, begging for a reduction in fuel taxes, sub-leasing their aircraft, basically, anything, which will help stop their haemorrhaging losses.
Karnataka has one the highest prices of ATF in the country due to its high taxes, and faces pressure for their reduction. The Government of Karnataka has an ace in its sleeve that can help airlines flying in to Bangalore save some money. An ace, they are unaware of — HAL airport.
Many times, weather conditions, ATC congestion or an airport closure, does not allow a flight to land immediately. International aviation safety rules require a flight to carry enough extra fuel to hover over the destination airport, for a certain amount of time, and then fly on, to an “alternate airport”. We have seen flights being diverted from Mumbai to Ahmedabad, Delhi to Jaipur, and Bangalore to Chennai.
These diversions add about 30~45 minutes of flying time, which translates to about 2 tons of fuel for an single aisle jet like the Boeing 737 or Airbus 320. For shorter flights this means the flight carries double the actual fuel required.
In the air, weight equals money. Even if a flight does not go to the alternate airport, it still has to carry the extra fuel and its consequent weight. Weight that could be otherwise utilised for commercial gain like carrying cargo, or savings by not carrying it.
In the rush of closing HAL for commercial flights, the Ministry of Civil Aviation, seems to have overlooked the fact that HAL is still, a fully functioning airport for all non-commercial flights. i.e. private, charters, defence, and has all the needed infrastructure to act as an alternate airport. To top it off, HAL is just 7 minutes flight time from BIAL.
If HAL airport is permitted to act as an “alternate” airport to BIAL, flights can reduce their “alternate airport” fuel requirement. Today, they would be grateful for the savings this will realise.